Schakowsky Leads 45 Members of Congress in Calling on Sec. Pompeo to withdraw United States from G20

October 21, 2020
Press Release
Saudi Arabia Needs to be Held Accountable for Human Rights Abuses Before Being Allowed to Host Global Summit

WASHINGTON -- Today U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) unveiled a letter signed by 45 Members of Congress and delivered to the Department of State calling on the Trump Administration to stand up for women who are facing torture, forced separation from their children, arbitrary detention and more in Saudi Arabia. The letter comes as the Saudi-hosted “W20” women’s summit began virtually in Riyadh. The Congresswomen joined advocates and family members of jailed Saudi dissidents to unveil their demand that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo withdraw from the G20 summit unless its Saudi hosts substantively address systemic women and human rights abuses.

“As a nation that stands for human rights, justice, and accountability, it is critical that the United States withdraw from this year’s G20 if Saudi Arabia remains the host country,” said Schakowsky. “If Saudi Arabia wants to maintain any kind of relationship with the international community and the United States of America, it is time for them to free the human and women rights prisoners and change their policies.”

“I could not think of a worse selection to host the G 20 summit. Saudi Arabia's government stands in stark contrast to every ideal we claim to uphold as Americans. Saudi Arabia's brutal record has only intensified since Mohammed Bin Salman became Crown Prince in 2017 and it has been directly enabled by this administration,” said Omar. “As the world's leading democracy and purveyor of human rights, the United States should demand drastic changes to Saudi Arabia's dismal record of human rights violations, repression, war, and environmental destruction. At the very least, we should withdraw from the Saudi-led G20 summit and commit to making human rights reforms a condition of all future dealings with Saudi Arabia government.”

In a press briefing, the Congresswomen were joined by Bethany Alhaidari, Areej al Sadhan and Lina AlHathloul, Saudi and US women with deeply personal experiences with Saudi abuses --including family members of prisoners of conscience named in the Congressional letter-- in a powerful endorsement of the call for the U.S. to stand up for its citizens and ideals against Saudi Arabia’s attempts to use its position as G20 host to paper over its egregious record of abuses.

Bethany Alhaidari, human rights researcher, Saudi desk officer at Freedom Initiative and a US citizen who was trapped in Saudi Arabia for years because her Saudi husband would not let her and her daughter leave and now may be forced to send her daughter back to the kingdom, explained, “I went through months of struggling to be seen as fully human as a female in Saudi courts, struggling where evidence could be sworn away if the man simply stated that what I said wasn't true. I was subject to baseless arrest warrants and a ten-year travel ban without the right to be heard in court without proper service or due process. And in July of last year, the Saudi court stripped me of custody....We escaped to Washington state in December and were granted temporary emergency jurisdiction, but I continue to literally battle for our lives as he's seeking our return to Saudi Arabia.” She continued, “Our government has to call on Saudi Arabia to abolish the kafala system and the male guardianship system, and to end the entrapment and abuse of Saudi and American women and children, and to extend protection to women that are trapped there and to free prisoners of conscience who are being detained, tortured, and even killed just for speaking out and wanting better for the country.”

With the Congressional letter, led by Rep. Schakowsky and supported by Freedom Forward and a coalition of NGOs, the 45 Congressional co-signers join a growing global campaign pushing for accountability around the Saudi-hosted G20. In recent weeks, the mayors of London, Los Angeles, New York and Paris boycotted the U20; the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to downgrade the EU’s participation in the G20; and Saudi Arabia was rejected in its bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Just yesterday, Jamal Khashoggi’s widow joined with DAWN, which Khashoggi founded shortly before he was murdered, to file suit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in a U.S. court.